The new world
Recently, NASA and ESA have announced the discovery of four additional planets orbiting the star TRAPPIST-1, bringing to seven the number of known planets in this system. The news has aroused great enthusiasm, especially because three planets are definitely within the habitable zone.
In the future, with the entry into operation of the JWST (NASA space telescope, whose launch is scheduled for the end of 2018) and E-ELT (ESA ground-based telescope, whose construction will be completed in 2024), we will have the availability of data regarding the atmospheric composition of these planets. In particular, we will know if in the atmospheres are present gas such as molecular oxygen, ozone and methane, the presence of which is attributable to the action of life forms (so-called bio-signature).
However, the remarkable fact about this discovery is the structure of TRAPPIST-1 planetary system. In fact it strongly reinforces, once more again, statistics relative to the abundance in the galaxy and in the universe of planets with conditions suitable for the emergence of life.
At the moment data about the system are few to conduct a deep analysis regarding the possibility of the emergence of life.
Anyway we can speculate, considering following data:
- the star TRAPPIST-1 is a Class-M Ultra Cool Red-Dwarf that emits a large part of the radiation in the wavelength of red;
- planets size are similar to those of Earth (from 0.76 to 1.13 the radius of Earth);
- planets complete their orbits around the star just in few days (from 1.5 to 20 days);
- planets are very close to each other, in fact, if they were in the solar system would be all located inside the orbit of Mercury.
From the above mentioned data, fundamental conclusions are:
1.A. the natural evolution should select life forms able to exploit infrared light;
1.B. technology developed by a civilization should be infrared-centered (instead of visible spectrum driven);
2. planets’s gravity field should be similar to those we have on Earth, consequently sizes and structures of complex life forms and possibly artifacts should be convergent to those we see on Earth;
3. years are very short in human terms and probably planets are tidally locked determining no circadian cycle; so in TRAPPIST-1 system the concept of time should be conceived in very different terms with respect to those we have on Earth.
4. from the surface of planets, located in the habitable zone, the others planets are clearly visible and some appear as large as the Moon; with simple telescopes would be easy to observe morphological features and in case oceans and signs of life, if present on the nearest planets.
Considering the above conclusions and in particular the number 4, assuming the possibility that it can emerge a technological civilization on one of the planets located in the habitable zone, for such beings Astronomy should play a key role in their culture, even more if these planets were rich in water. In fact they would appear blue and prospers instead of red and hostiles, like Mars or Venus (let’s consider if Mars would had been habitable for humans……..)
These last factors represent an incredible boost toward the development of a cohesive civilization (if it exists) and toward the space exploration (in our civilization, space exploration has been an important factor towards international cooperation, also reconciling opponent powers, for the construction of the International Space Station). Also, due to the short distances among planets they are reachable in terms of days and not months or years like in our Solar System (it takes about 7 months to reach Mars). Therefore, it is likely that a technological civilization located in TRAPPIST-1 system can easily become multi-planetary.
So it seems that there are right conditions to the development of a civilization in TRAPPIST-1 system, however, at the moment, it remains still unsolved one of the great mysteries of the universe: “The Great Silence”.
The SETI radio telescopes have already been pointed in the direction of TRAPPIST-1 and have already listened to 10 million channels without identifying any associated signal to an alien radio emission.
Very briefly, possible explanations are:
- the star TRAPPIST-1 is 500 million years old, so considering the about 4 billion years needed on Earth to generate a technological civilization maybe it is too early to think that there are radio-telescopes over there;
- a technological civilization has emerged and rapidly has developed till building radio-telescopes before us. In this case considering they are about 39 light-years from us, if they are watching our broadcastings they know:
– we have done a World War fratricidal;
– we have nuclear weapons;
– we use nuclear weapons even against our species and on our home planet.
So maybe is better for them to stay in silence, monitor our progress and be ready to defend from our crazy species!!
Key words: TRAPPIST 1 – First Contact – Prime Directive – Fermi Paradox – Interstellar Travel – SETI – METI – ETI.
For further insights, the topic is presented in the book: Extraterrestrial Civilizations and The First Directive – A possible solution to the Fermi Paradox.